Teaching Digital History

Thanks to the Gilder Lehrman Institute, a private history institute that is dedicated to increasing awareness of American History, I applied for and won a grant to study history in the digital age (today) in New York City for a week.

During the week, we stayed in the Iroquois Hotel, located on West 44th Street in Midtown Manahattan, adjacent to the New York City's Theater District, and three blocks from the NY Public Library Main Branch. It was here that we did most of our work. There were thirty teachers, who traveled from literally all over the country to attend the session: Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Orlando, New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago, Wichita KS, Los Angeles, Seattle, Juneau...just to name a few places! One neat thing about the conference was that I got to meet people from all around the country. We had great discussions about teaching and about history, as well as what their hometowns are like. There are huge differences, I found, between what topics teachers may discuss in schools.

The conference was led by a professor from the University of Houston, who teaches history and has his students create narrated historical documentaries (think: History Channel) on their own. It was pretty neat. My group created a narrated tour of the advertising industry in Times Square and Fifth Avenue. Individually, I created a six-minute narrated summary of the Lewis and Clark Expeditions into the Louisiana Territory.

During our week in NYC, we had tours of the Paley Center for Media (aka The Museum of TV and Radio) and the New York Public Library, which is absolutely beautiful inside. If you love architecture, check it out when you are in NYC.

With one night free, several of us saw a Broadway Show called The Drowsy Chaperone. It was in the New York Marquis Theatre on Broadway; it is the story of a showgirl in the 1920s who is scheduled to be married, but her manager and the NY mob does not want the wedding to happen, because she will stop performing, leading to a loss of money for the show. After the show was over, a few teachers and I went to the stage door and got to meet several of the cast members, including Gerry Vichi, a former teacher at Holliston High School and resident of Medfield, believe it or not!

Our week ended with a showcase of everyone's individual project (it took about three hours to finish them all!), which ranged from the Polo Vaccine to the Leni-Lenape Tribe. Our last event in the city was a National Park Service guided tour of the East River, New York Harbor, and the Hudson River - narrated by Kathleen Turner, which left at South Street Seaport. Fun times were had and lots was learned - a great combination!


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